Thanksgiving


Of course I have to write a little something regarding Thanksgiving. It’s mandatory, like going through security at the airport…

I am thankful for:

* A smart, stubborn, beautiful daughter who challenges me every day and reminds me that, despite all the early childhood classes, a minor in elementary ed, and a speech pathology degree, I don’t know everything about child development. Sometimes I have to shake my head in consternation, because I’m really unsure how two smart, stubborn introverts could produce a child who is as much of an extrovert as she is. Sea Monkey can walk into a store and make a friend in about five minutes.

* A smart, stubborn, sweet son who challenges me every day.  He also reminds me that what I know about child development is just the tip of the iceberg.

* Chewey’s school doing everything they have to accommodate him, and I’m so grateful it’s working. He’s finally challenged. And I’m so pleased that he’s finally making friends and coming home to talk about the people in his class!

* A smart, fabulous, handsome husband who challenges me, rescues my work when I need him to (because I’ve accidentally deleted it… One of these days I’ll share the thesis fiasco), and encourages me to  keep on trying when I get overwhelmed.

* My job. While I want to start writing professionally, I love the job I have right now. I work close to home, have an awesome principal, I work with fabulous teachers, and the kids are fantastic. Many of the kids on my caseload are medically fragile, and they continue to challenge me to do more, learn more and do better. I’m learning more about AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) than I ever wanted to (but I’m finding it interesting). I love working with the preschoolers–both those with autism and those without–and celebrating milestones both great and small.

I’m very lucky. And now I’m off to enjoy my holiday tradition (the only one I get, since I always have to go somewhere every holiday): lemon poppyseed scones with clotted cream.

MCC

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The Holidays


I never used to hate the holidays.

As I get older, the holidays seem to get bigger and bigger and more overwhelming, as if they are some out of control beast. The obligations never seem to lessen, they just get bigger.

I get that I’m totally selfish. I would really love to spend the holidays doing exactly what I want to do. I would like go sledding, take the kids over to a friend’s house, let them play, hang out for a bit and not overstuff myself (as mentioned in previous blogs, eating is not my thing these days, so gathering around a bunch of food I can’t eat really doesn’t appeal to me. After all, putting a fat girl who can’t eat at a table loaded up with goodies is cruel and unusual punishment). At my parents’ house, I will be expected not only to cook, but also to eat it. I will be made fun of if I don’t eat, and if I do… well, let’s just say, it’s not pretty.

All of this will make me pissy.

A friend of mine recently blogged about simplifying her life. She lives in a loft with her three year old and her husband, and I have to say, I totally respect her for that choice. I’m amazed she can make it work. One of her recommendations is to cut the fat–trimming away those things you don’t need.

As I sit here surrounded by piles of crap, I find I totally agree with her. There is so much junk in this house we never use and we don’t need. And it’s like that in other aspects of my life–my life is cluttered. Cluttered with junk, cluttered with stress, cluttered with relationships that are plainly toxic but I can’t seem to get rid of. The clutter in my house is an extension of the clutter in every other aspect of my life.

I carry around so much baggage it’s overwhelming. It seems to me like we’re all jockeying for position, for the power in the relationship. But if there has to be a loser in a relationship, is that relationship really worth having?

I should just start saying no, I should start doing things to make me happy, because I seem to collect obligations and relationships I don’t need. And every year at this time, I think to myself, “If I could do anything for X holiday, what would it be?”

Every year I come up with a scenario that will never play out. Every. Single. Year.

Every year, M and I will fight over something… The holidays are stressful, and because we can’t fight with the people we’re really mad at, we’ll take it out on each other. Luckily, we know we just have to make it through Christmas and then we’re good for another ten months or so.

Every year, I’ll be stressed out because something isn’t going right. Someone will be unhappy (my mother), someone will be angry (me), someone will be insulted (my father), and a fight will ensue (though, ironically,  not usually with me. I’m usually quietly stewing). And we’ll all warn one another what topics are off limits (my parenting skills, my mother’s cooking skills {or lack thereof}, medicine, politics, religion, the state of education, law enforcement, or my childhood memories), and after the list is complete, we will be relegated to talking about the weather, which itself is not always a safe topic.

I don’t want to go someplace and eat. I honestly don’t see why we can’t all get together on a day that’s not a holiday, if spending time together is so important. But the fact remains, it’s not the togetherness that’s important–it’s the day that’s important. And really, while I try to rationalize what I’m planning on doing, I think, it’s only two days a year. I can put on my big girl panties (thankfully, I have a lot of them) and deal with everyone else’s crap for two days. I get that it’s all about control in my family, and controlling the actions of others. I get that there’s no such thing as a holiday about me, or even one in which I have any sort of say in what happens. But it’s two days a year for the sake of a tenuous peace for the rest of it.

But my friend is right: there is happiness in reducing the clutter, whether it’s physical clutter or emotional baggage. I should try it some time. Because right now, I’ve got so much crap I should be featured on Hoarders.

And crap doesn’t make you happy… It just makes things messier.

MCC

Baby Megs and The Syph


Y’all might wonder why I am the way I am. I swear, there is a reason.

It’s my dad’s fault.

Now, when I was a kid, my dad was almost never around. And I mean it, almost never. When he moved from Alabama out west, six months before we did, it took me about a week and a half to be unable to recall what he looked like. Later, in high school, I came downstairs without my contacts on and didn’t recognize him. Dad was always at work or hunting. Occasionally, taking my brother someplace. I was the token girl and not the scion. That’s not to say my brother got a lot of attention: he didn’t. Neither of us did. But he took Baby Brother fishing and did stuff like that, and when he did, I got left at home.

Interesting, but I love to fish. So dads, take your girls out too. Seriously, I should be a stripper. If I hadn’t had a very rigid set of moral standards, if I hadn’t been painfully shy, if I had been more of an exhibitionist or rebellious, I would be working a pole right now.

Granted, no one wants to see that.

Ironically, though, my sense of humor comes from him. The bawdy sense of humor that knows few boundaries is all him, baby. Though I think I have some sense in regard to boundaries that my father lacks. After all, I have boundaries, I just elect not to use them very often. My dad, on the other hand, doesn’t.

This brings to mind the day I stopped talking in class. I was in kindergarten.

Mind you, it was a Southern Baptist preschool/Kindergarten in the deep south, back in the late seventies, early eighties, back in those days when the switch was still used. Fricking thing hurt, incidentally.

Bear in mind, I was already painfully shy, a fact my mother was aware of, but who knows if my dad knew. In any case, I’d been sick for a few days. And my very pretty, very sweet, very devout kindergarten teacher innocently asks, “Oh, Meg, what did you have?”

In all honesty, I had a cold or something equally minor. My father being a physician, I figured he must know a thing or two about medicine. So, I responded with all the confidence in my five-year-old body,

“I have the syph!”

I watched a number of emotions play across her face, and I knew I’d done something wrong. Something terribly, terribly wrong, and I recall shrinking in my seat. Her voice was very quiet as she asked,

“What did you just say to me, Miss Connors?”

By this point, I’m sure I was blushing like crazy. I was in huge trouble, but I had no idea why. Less certain, I said, “I have the syph?”

I promptly got sent to the principal’s office. Where I repeated exactly what I’d said to my teacher to the principal.

By this time, I knew that whatever I’d said was terrible. Was wrong. I had no idea what was wrong with it; after all, I was just repeating what my dad had told me. It’s what he always told me when he’d look in my throat or at the splinter in my finger or whatever. After all, one had to be sick or wounded to get my father’s attention.

“Baby Megs, you have the syph.” Sometimes, he’d even says, “Baby Megs, you have syphillis.”

I was five. I had no idea what syphilis was, or how one… procured… such an illness.

Anyway, the principal broke out the ruler, had me lay my palms flat. And he hit me with that ruler. Twice.

By this time, I was sobbing. I had no idea what I’d done wrong. I was painfully shy, quiet, and I wanted everyone to like me (yes, all of these things have changed. I’d like it if people liked me, but really, if you don’t, there’s not much I’m willing to do about it). I just wanted to do what everyone wanted. I was asked a question, I answered it, and I was punished for it.

“I have the syph!”

It’s funny now, like everything else… At the time, I was mortified. I’d be mortified again in seventh grade, while I had to lie to the school nurse and tell her that she was misreading the word “syphilis.” I most certainly did not have syphilis. I don’t know what I had, but I told her it was “strep.” Thankfully, my father’s handwriting is so bad that she at least pretended to buy it. By then, corporal punishment in school was illegal, so I dodged a bullet there.

But I digress. In any case, I can trace most of my reluctance to speak in class to that very moment. For years, I never volunteered information. Hell, I don’t think I began talking in class in earnest until college.

All because of syphilis.

MCC


I’m so sick of living where I do.

Right now, I live in the high desert, but I was born in the deep south. And right now, I’m missing it something fierce (although that could be in part due to the fact I’ve been listening to country music for two days).

I miss the sheets  of rain. I miss muggy summer nights (we could describe them as sultry, because they were, but that seems to be over-romanticizing it just a bit). I miss lightning bugs and lush forests and the smell of magnolias. I miss the wilderness. I miss the accents, because out here, the only ones who have an accent is me (and only if I’m drunk or really pissed off–most of the time, I sound exactly like everyone else) and my kids’ pediatrician. 

There are things about the high desert that are great: the four seasons, the fact that I know just about everyone in this town, despite its size. The town’s grown pretty big over the last (almost) three decades I’ve been here, but those of us who went to elementary, middle and high school, not the mention college, out here… well, we’re all related to one another. In a way, it’s nice to know just about everyone: it’s a rare day I can go anywhere and not know someone.

But it’s boring, too. I never got out, except during college when I got a scholarship to go to Europe for nine months. Which, incidentally, was the most fun, the most crazy, thing I’ve ever done in my life. And a part of it was that I didn’t know anyone, and I could do whatever I wanted (within reason, because I am, and always was, a very reasonable girl), without having to live up to the expectations that everyone else had for me. Because no one knew me there, I could just be whoever I wanted to be.

Here, if I’d done a third of the stuff I did in Europe, my father would have heard about it and had my hide. Hell, he heard about the time I got into a snowball fight outside of a bar, fell down and slid under a car parked on Virginia Street. Ironically, I hadn’t been drinking. But I hadn’t even been home for more than a few hours when Dad called and said he didn’t necessarily approve of my actions.

It was a stinking snowball fight. Not even a drunk snowball fight, just a snowball fight. Just because I fell down doesn’t mean anything: I’m clumsy on my best day, and it was slippery. 

I wonder what he would do if he knew about the stuff I did in Europe… Maybe one day I’ll tell him. Ha! Only if I wanted him to have a heart attack. No matter that it was 15 years ago…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad here. I have a job I love, and I do like the four seasons, and the mountains are nice. So are the few lakes we have around here.

But, Lord, I want out. Twenty more years, and then I can retire and move. Maybe I’ll actually get to pick where we go.

And then I’ll over-romanticize the high desert.

MCC

It’s hard to be a boob


I am not the most graceful person I’ve ever met, and I’m OK with that. I never have been, nor will I ever be, light on my feet.

In high school, I even recall the guy that I had this horrific lust crush on telling me that he always recognized me by my walk. Would it have been awesome if it had been because I sashayed when I walked? After all, I had a healthy butt back then (but was pretty skinny), and the thought that he was checking out my ass made me happy. Unfortunately, he followed up with this line,

“Yeah, because you walk like a lumberjack.”

Oi. So much for checking out my ass.

But not untrue, so I didn’t really take it personally. I do believe that was the year that I proposed that the lumberjack song from Monty Python be the new national anthem. I know how I am.

I am the queen of weird, accidental blunders. If every time I made a fool of myself I cried, I’d have to buy stock in kleenex.

So, I will share at least one, and maybe more, of my most embarrassing moments. Because you’re lucky, I will share my favorite one first.

This is back in college, and I had just started my graduate special work for speech pathology. It was hot, and I was on the shuttle bus. I looked cute, too–long billowy skirt, cute boots underneath, and I looked good. I was happy for it, because although I had recently gotten married, I was on the shuttle with nearly the entire football team (they had gotten on at the previous stop). Hey, I might have been married, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want the cute football players checking me out.

And things were going along swimmingly. I mean, how much trouble can a girl get into just sitting on a shuttle?

The answer to that is: not a lot. It’s the getting up that can be the problem.

I should, perhaps, expound a little on what I was wearing. My long, flowing skirt had an elastic waistband.

So when I stood up, I accidentally stood on my skirt. And as I stood up, the skirt fell down.

Before I even had the opportunity to process what was happening, said skirt hit the floor. And all I could do was stare at it in horror.

I looked down at my skirt, lying in a puddle on the floor. I looked up. And watched as every head on the shuttle turned to look out the window–they were tactful enough to pretend that I wasn’t standing on a crowded shuttle in my cute silk shirt, cute boots, and my underwear. It was like watching the crowd do the wave at a football game. The folks closest to me turned their heads first, then the people in front of them, and so on, up until the people at the front of the shuttle–mostly men–were all pointedly staring out the window.

I bent down and picked up my skirt. Wrestled a little with my boot, which was tangled in said skirt, then pulled the thing back on, and pretended that my cheeks weren’t flaming. Holding my head high, I marched to the front of the deathly silent shuttle and got off.

I was the only one to get off at that stop.

As I started walking to class, I burst out laughing. I laughed so hard my sides ached, until I was nearly crying. And as I paused to catch my breath, I heard that I wasn’t the only one laughing.

The peeps on the shuttle–the football team–were howling with laughter as they drove away. I could still hear them laughing at the next shuttle stop. It should have embarrassed me to high heaven, but it didn’t, because even I had to admit it was funny. In fact, I went directly inside the building, sat down in class, and told the first girl who would listen to me my little story, and I laughed through the entire telling–even though my cheeks were still flaming

She and I are still friends.

The moral of this story is:

1) Never wear junky underwear, and 

2) Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Because, honey, if I did, I would in serious trouble.

MCC

A Little Ray of Sunshine


As many of you have noticed, I’ve been a little miffed recently.

My son Chewey has been quite the little demon at school, apparently. If it were up to me, I’d keep him home, because he’s been delightful, but alas, I have to work. It’s been convenient because I’ve actually had some time off.

I thought today would be another bad day.

We had a meeting set up with Chewey’s old school this morning, in an attempt to get our money back. In my post from yesterday, I mentioned that I was changing my tactics: I let M deal with it.

Now M is a cop, and no one (except for our daughter) has a better stink eye than he does. He makes girls cry with the power of his glare. I’m not kidding. It’s happened before. Not to me, though, because I am impervious (well, not really, but I’m used to it).

I warned them that I was the nice one, but I don’t think they believed me, so I let M go by himself. I didn’t even bother to address our concerns with them today. And it went fine… After making everyone in there uncomfortable with the power of his evil eye, they have agreed to refund this month’s tuition, along with giving us back the money for the music classes Chewey never got to take. So that’s good.

But that’s not my ray of sunshine, though it did bolster my spirits. No, that came in the form of our old day care provider.

These people cut their teeth on my daughter’s tantrums, and Sea Monkey’s tantrums could be vicious. No one has the stamina for fit throwing that Sea Monkey does. Two hours of screaming was not unusual for her–two hours straight, too. And while I knew about their complaints, they implemented the strategies I set out for them, didn’t complain about how long it took for me to put the stuff together, and were OK with taking data for me (yep, we went the “antecedent, behavior, consequence” route). I should have left Chewey there, and I thought about it, but it was so much farther from our house, and on those days when I couldn’t pick up the kids, it was hard for anyone else to get out there to pick them up, as it is about as far away from M’s work as we can possibly get.

But they took data for me. And through that data, we could see what was setting Sea Monkey off, and then we could change how we approached that. And, low and behold, the tantrums mostly stopped (they’ve completely stopped now that she is five and a half and is on a completely artificial color free diet and has prescription antihistamines… Fall is not a good time for Sea Monkey, but I think we’ve gotten her largely under control. But Sea Monkey is another story).

When I showed up there (I called first, but as I was driving there), I felt at home.

 They welcomed me back. When I explained Chewey’s situation to the director, I laid it all out for her: “He hits, apparently he bites, and he’s in trouble all the time.”

Her response: “He never bit anyone here!”

I know. I know. But I still laid the whole thing out. I explained his issues: the lack of friends (which they knew about, but he played so well with Sea Monkey’s friends last year that we just kind of let that slide), the physical aggression, the talking back, and the boredom. And do you know what she did? She put Chewey in a class with older kids. Bigger kids. Many of them will be younger kinders come July, and most of them are a good six months older than Chewey.

I went and talked to his teacher, who is, incidentally, one of his teachers from his old room. She potty trained him. She dealt with Sea Monkey before him. I’ve been to her house. I saw their curriculum, and I feel pretty certain Chewey will be a busy boy. He will even have a job his first week on board: he gets to walk the lizard (and no, that is not a euphemism for anything untoward–it’s an actual lizard named Spiney).

And all of the stuff that I’ve made? They’re OK if I bring it in, and OK if I don’t. They’ll make adjustments for him. And they’re totally fine with jumping through the hoops of my “antecedent, behavior, consequence” charts. Because his last place, all they would say was, “Chewey threw a fit.” Every time I’d ask why, they’d say, “It just came out of nowhere.”

This is not a diatribe against them, but I would like to point out: No fit comes from nowhere. There is always a reason for it, whether its escape, avoidance, attention, or somatic. Chewey’s not that great with transitions–I’ve known that since he was four months old. When we’re getting ready in the morning, I know I have to tell him a good five minutes in advance that we’re leaving. I know I need to have a routine with him, otherwise he gets upset.

So does his new (old) day care provider.

I love them.

MCC

Sigh


Well, I’m having a day.

My son is, apparently, as frightful as any monster.

Now, I don’t get this, because overall, he’s OK at home. I’m not going to lie and say I think he’s perfect. I’m not a fool.

But he’s not, say, Charles Manson, either.

So when I went in to talk to daycare again today, in an attempt to resolve our issues, here is a direct quote from the teacher: “I don’t know about charts for just Chewey. The other kids will get jealous,” and, my personal favorite, “The other teachers don’t want him in their rooms because he’s so awful.”

And to this, I say, “Whuh?”

I have been punched, kicked, scratched until I bled, thrown my back out, had my eyes clawed, and, once had a boob injury so severe I had to go to Concentra for Workman’s Comp (that was an interesting day, let me tell you. And the masters of bad backs really had no idea what to do with my boob. It was embarrassing on all fronts). I’ve come home with black eyes, multiple scratches, and bruises up and down my arms. I did this without complaint.

Yet my son, because, at 3, he throws tantrums that can last 10 whole minutes is apparently destined for a life in the slammer. I know he’s not great at his now former school, but they put a 3 1/2 year old in a room with two year olds and told him he was bad and acting like a baby (this is what Chewey told me)… When I tried to convince them he needed to go into a classroom with his same age peers, I was told, flat out, “No.”

My response: “And you expect him NOT to act out? You’re setting him up to fail and wondering why he is.”

As a speech pathologist, I’ve seen this before, where the environment is set to sabotage the child, and either out of lack of knowledge, laziness, maliciousness or a combination of the three, no changes are made to accommodate the child. I’ve had teachers tell me a range of things from, “What about the other kids?” to “The kid needs to change to fit our environment, and telling us we need to change is insulting.”

But the end result is the same, and I want to say, “Well, how’s that working for ya?” though I never have.

Because the fact of the matter is, not all kids fit into the same mold. Kids are different, and we (should) love them for it. I can address the two questions above fairly easily.

Question One: “What about the other kids?”

Answer: Well, if the other kids aren’t the problem, then what about them? I’m not saying don’t offer the other kids incentives, I’m saying, if I put a series of strategies into place for one child who needs them, I expect them to be used, and if the other kids are jealous, that’s not my problem. If a kid needs a picture schedule and happy face charts, then I’ll make them for that child. If other kids are jealous and you want to make them for your whole class, be my guest. We don’t abandon the strategies in place for one kid because others might get jealous. Offer the other kids other incentives. But I can pretty much guarantee you, after doing this for ten years, when a teacher says that to me, pretty much all of my strategies are going in the trash (seriously, I’ve found them there).

Question 2: “The kid needs to change to fit our environment, and telling us we need to change is insulting.”

Answer: This type of response is from the land of magical thinking, and my response is always the same: It doesn’t happen. When we make accommodations for kids, when we change to meet their needs, we are demonstrating that there is more than one way of doing things. If what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to stop doing it. You can’t make a kid change by insisting he do things your way. You can make a kid change by responding differently to behaviors, by changing your approach. I have never gotten a change in behavior by continuing on a path that I know isn’t working. It’s like when I have a lesson that’s tanking–you change how you’re teaching the lesson midstream and see if that goes better. By continuing to teach in a way that you know isn’t working, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s the same with behavior. If you keep trying to change a behavior by using the same strategies that don’t work over and over, you’re not going to see results, but you are going to frustrate yourself and the kid. It’s not insulting to suggest that you change–it’s practical. Like I said, kids don’t change because you want them to… After all, if that were the case, no two year old would ever throw a tantrum. Trust me, mine wouldn’t.

But, apparently, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Forget the fancy master’s degree and all of that. Forget the fact that I work with behaviors pretty much all day long. I. Am. An. Idiot.

So, former daycare provider, here’s what I have to say: I am changing my approach, because the way I’ve worked this isn’t working for me. The new approach is to let the hubby deal with you from now on.

If you think my son is scary….

Good luck with that.

MCC

Vampires v. Zombies


Crap.

Yep, you heard me. Crap.

Every time I go on line to write this blog, I wind up kvetching about how crappy my synopsis is (and it is, but I hope it’s getting better), or how I now have to revise again to take out semicolons. Or how my son managed to get his tiny rear end kicked out of preschool.

So, because I’m sick of bitching, I’m bringing up a topic: Vampires vs. Zombies. Discuss.

Girls like the vamps because it’s all about sex.

Yes, girls really do like sex. Just look at the sales of romance novels and tell me we don’t.

Think about it: Pulling in the girl to bite her on the neck (if you’re going to be less basely sexual, you’d just bite her wrist and be done with it, but no, they almost always go for the neck). The penetration of the bite. The exchange of body fluids. The seduction of  the whole thing. And then there’s the bad boy aspect.

The soulless bad boy we all want to tame or redeem, however you want to look at it. The solitary hunter who belongs solely to you, because you were the one who tamed the untameable, who stole his heart. One could think of it as falling for James Dean (or the attractive, bad-boy loner of your choice) over and over, only this bad boy has fangs (but, the bright side, while he may kill you and/or steal your soul, he won’t get you pregnant). Indeed, most vampires are attractive (I’ll give you that Nosferatu wasn’t, but most of them are–more seductive in their hunting than simply vile). And while I have always stayed away from the bad boys, I can’t deny they’ve got a certain allure, which is probably why I like the vamps. The only thing off-putting about them is the whole dead thing, but hey, we’ve all got our failings.

So now I will shake myself out of my vampire-induced reverie and move on to zombies.

Now, I will fully admit to a certain lack of objectivity on this subject. I’m not a big fan of the zombies. They’re mindless, kinda moany (but not in a good way), herdlike creatures, and Night of the Living Dead gave me nightmares for weeks. But the husband loves them. For him, it’s all about the mayhem and the carnage and guilt-free killing (I think). I admit I liked World War Z and the idea of the new show on AMC. But I think that’s because it’s less about the zombies and the horror than it is about the human trials and the relationships between the characters. I could care less about whether every character does the smart thing, as long as you feel for them. I like a certain element of seduction in my horror movies, and I’m not just talking about sex (though I’m not opposed to that). I want to be seduced into liking (or disliking) these characters, I want to sympathize with them, I want to feel their pain. I want human relationships developed, because I’d like to think, if the world did devolve into chaos and the dead rose from the grave, we humans would band together and help one another, forming deep, meaningful relationships with one another in the face of such madness. 

I’d like to think that’s what mankind would do, anyway. In case of zombiegeddon (or zombiepocalypse, whichever term you prefer), my plan is to be dead, so y’all have fun with that.

In any case, I can see how it would be harder to fight against vampires, especially if they’re beautiful–they’re intelligent and they can talk to you, and being attractive never hurt. Zombies give us a common enemy to fight against; if vampires came about, I’m sure there would be more than a few humans who would side with them, just because they’re pretty. Because, let’s face it, people are weird.

Hm. I almost want to write about zombies now, just to write about the human element.

Almost.

Because I still love the vamps.

MCC

Ode to a semicolon


Yeah, yeah, it’s not Ode to a Grecian Urn or Ode to Joy, but really, what do you expect? I’m waxing philosophical (ish) about a punctuation mark, for pete’s sake. And because I don’t do poetry, you’ll just have to settle for an homage to the semicolon written in prose. Sorry. The title is about as close to the romantic poets (oh, and how I love those romantic poets) as you’re going to get. I’m not that awesome.

I love the semicolon.

Actually, I really do love the semicolon.

I can’t explain my affection for one small punctuation mark–all I know is that I have loved the semicolon since high school. It makes sentences beautiful, longer, fuller. I think, more exciting.

Sadly, people don’t seem to agree with me.

It’s like my love of the prologue. I LOVE prologues. Something about them sucks me in, gives me a little more information. A taste for what comes later, if you will. I like reading them, and I enjoy writing them, and then I went to a conference where the first words out of the speaker’s mouth–I kid you not–were, “Prologues are for the weak writer who isn’t skilled enough to show that same information later in the story.”

What?! And oh, OW!

I guess I can see her point. And then she went on to berate my friend, the semicolon, saying, “It just makes for run on sentences. Just get it out. Use a period.”

But I like long sentences. I don’t necessarily want to read a story that’s all periods and commas. I love the dash, the colon, the semicolon. Sure, I don’t want to write like Tolstoy (no offense to Tolstoy, whom I love, but he’s just not a read I’d take to the beach… not that this desert-dwelling super-white girl ever makes it to the beach), but I don’t want to write like I’m talking in motherese, either. (“Oh, what a cute book you are! A cute, big book too!”)

In truth, I have learned that all of my favorite things to use in writing (semicolons, prologues, adverbs) are frowned upon, and, the more I espouse the merits of such, the more it sounds like a justification for why I write run-ons and resort to the hallmarks of a weak writer. It’s sad to say it probably is. Maybe I’m a hack. Maybe I should pack up my toys and go home. After all, I make a terrific speech pathologist.

No way.

Every time I get hit with a proverbial smack down, something else comes up that serves to reinvigorate me. Sure, I’m adverby and my sentences are too long, but I can still final in contests. Haven’t published anything yet (except for my master’s thesis, and I’m not sure that counts–but it was a rock solid thesis, if I do say so myself. I still can’t believe I wrote it), but that doesn’t mean I won’t. I’m new at this. I only decided I would write a novel exactly fourteen months ago. In the mean time, I have finished two, and I’m nearly done with number three. Two of them have finaled in contests, and one I never submitted to anything. 

So, my friend the semicolon, I am off to take you out of Revision V of my draft before I send it off. Prologue, because I can’t bear to take you out completely, you will merely be hacked down… Four pages, max. Oh, and I need to fix J. Edgar, because he still sucks. But maybe, just maybe, if I can make the J. Edgar better, cut down on my use of semicolons, and hack down my prologue from 6 1/4 pages to a mere four, maybe I can get myself published. And we can be friends once again.

MCC

The Real World


I’m often asked, “Why can’t you write anything from the real world? Something contemporary that people will want to read?” (Actual question, I swear)

The simple answer is: I don’t necessarily like the real world.

I mean, it’s like the reverse of a vacation to say, Branson, Missouri (no offense to Branson, of course). Ok to visit, not that great to live there. Well, in my world, the real world is Ok to live in, but if I’m going to spend $7, I’d rather visit someplace else.

In the made up places in my head, the stakes are high, the world is in danger, love lasts a lifetime, but good will always triumph. I have no such guarantees in real life. First, the stakes are never really that high in my real life. After all, no one will die if I choose the store brand over Tide with Bleach, and society won’t collapse if I just can’t fix that kid’s /r/. The choices I make are… relatively mundane.

As for the second point, while the world might be in danger, I work in preschool, so I’m thinking that I’m not going to be the one to fix it. No one’s ever heard of an overweight preschool based speech pathologist saving the world, and I’m pretty sure there’s a reason for that. I’m squishy and I’m cuddly, and little kids love me. But take down some terrorist cell, yeah, not so much. I’ll leave that to the professionals. The most badass I get is when I go to the rodeo and pretend to be some barfly named Dixie to help my friends pick up guys while drinking my one Texas Punch. Sorry gents, this hot piece of extra-large ass is taken. I know, I’m wild and crazy.

And love lasting a lifetime? I suppose it can happen. It’s gone well for me so far, but every day I’m surprised by the people in my life who are getting divorced. People I would never in a million years expect to divorce because they seemed so blissfully happy are suddenly calling it quits. These are couples that I would point to and say, “Hey, M, why can’t we be more like them?” I guess that means I’m glad M and I are the way we are, because however dysfunctional we may be (and sometimes we are), it seems to work for us. But in Meggan’s playground of pretend, my couples will be together forever, crazy in love and having magnificent sex. No taking one for the team or squeezing in a quickie between dishes and collapsing into bed exhausted. Every encounter is fabulous, and you’ll just have to believe me when I say that every encounter will continue to be fabulous forever.

Could I write a contemporary romance? Sure, I think I could (I have a couple of ideas swimming in my head). More likely, I’d do a romantic suspense, because I like the danger and the high stakes stuff. Again, I have at least one of those floating around in my head. If I ever get around to writing that book, it might be pretty good. But there are other people who are completely brilliant with the contemporary romance, and I’m not sure I’m one of them.

Creating worlds? I can do that. Supernatural powers? I can do that too. I can torture my characters to no end, and have a good time doing it. In a contemporary romance, these are supposed to be like real people with real reactions, and I think I’d actually start to feel bad for my fake people if I tortured them to the extent I do my supernaturals. My supernaturals are… well, special. They can take it. Granted, in my first historical, I guess I tortured poor Claire, so maybe I need to take that back.

So, why can’t I write contemporary? Well, for right now, because I like my worlds dark and broody, my characters a little tortured. I like to visit the dark places in my head and see what comes out. And even though in person, I’m pretty funny, other people do light and humorous contemporary way better than I do. Waaay better. Because if I tried to write a something with a little heat and a little humor right now, it would probably come out like a post WWII Germanic novella: the hero fails in some way, and while everyone starves, there’s a single loaf of bread sitting on a table in an flat in Lübeck, uneaten and growing stale. (Yeah, even I don’t know where that came from, but that Gruppe 47 literature stuff was pretty stinking depressing… but I’m sure you get my point.)

MCC